UN envoy arrives in Yemen’s capital to push Houthis for truce renewal

UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg holds a press conference upon his arrival in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on June 8, 2022. (ALAA MOHAMMAD / AFP)

SANAA/UNITED NATIONS – UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg arrived in the Houthi-held Yemeni capital Sanaa on Monday to push the militia for truce renewal.

Grundberg was scheduled to hold meetings with Houthi leaders during the visit, the Houthi-run al-Masirah TV reported.

The humanitarian issues, including paying salaries to the civil servants in the Houthi-held areas and releasing war prisoners between the Houthi group and the government, would top the discussions, according to the TV report.

The visit came amid international efforts to renew the truce in Yemen and pave the way for a political settlement.

On Jan 5, Grundberg held a conversation with Rashad al-Alimi, chairman of the Yemeni Presidential Council, in the Saudi capital Riyadh, over the extension of the truce, according to the Yemeni government media outlets.

The humanitarian issues, including paying salaries to the civil servants in the Houthi-held areas and releasing war prisoners between the Houthi group and the government, would top the discussions, according to the Houthi-run al-Masirah TV

In October 2022, the Yemeni government and the Houthi militia failed to extend a six-month national truce, raising concerns about the return of violent conflicts to the Arab country.

Meanwhile, Martin Griffiths, the UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, called on the international community to help boost and stabilize Yemen's economy.

"I call on the international community to redouble its efforts to boost Yemen's economy and restore basic services," which will also serve to reduce humanitarian needs as well as the size and price tag of the aid operation in the long run, the UN relief chief told a UN Security Council briefing on the war-torn country of Yemen.

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Over recent months, Griffiths said, there have been signs of increasing economic tension emerging between the parties, with potentially harmful consequences for the people of Yemen and the aid operation.

"We know from experience that even a small deterioration in Yemen's economy can have major ripple effects for millions of people," he added.

Griffiths noted that despite some appreciation last year, the Yemeni rial is now trading at 1,250 to the US dollar in government-held areas, the lowest point since the truce was announced in early April.

This handout photo provided by the Ansarullah Media center on Sept 1, 2022 shows fighters loyal to Yemen's Houthi group taking part in a military parade titled "Waad al-Akhera" (the Promise of the Hereafter) in the western province of Hodeidah.  (ANSARULLAH MEDIA / HO / AFP)

"I urge the parties to do everything possible to avoid any actions that could further destabilize the economy or otherwise negatively impact humanitarian needs or the response," he said.'On Yemen's humanitarian situation, Griffiths said he fears that 2023 will be another extremely difficult year for Yemenis, adding that the country's economy continues to weaken and basic services hang by an ever-thinning thread.

In 2023, an estimated 21.6 million people across Yemen will need humanitarian assistance and protection services, according to Griffiths.

"I urge the international community to continue to stand with the Yemeni people this year by giving generously to the humanitarian appeal and helping to narrow funding gaps for life-saving programs," said Griffiths.

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The civil war erupted in Yemen in late 2014 when the Iran-backed Houthi militia seized control of some northern cities and forced the Saudi-backed Yemeni government out of the capital Sanaa.

The war has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis, displaced 4 million, and pushed the country to the brink of famine.